Yale University recently offered a course that’s proved to be the most popular one ever given there. The topic was “Happiness.” One-quarter of the student body—1200 undergraduates—enrolled, requiring the largest auditorium on campus for the classes.

Why so much interest? One student said, “In reality, a lot of us are anxious, stressed, unhappy, and numb.” Unfortunately, this statement is not limited to Yale undergrads. The complexity and accelerating pace of life, heightened competition, and increasing human isolation are robbing us of peace of mind. As a result, people find themselves desperate to find that most elusive quality in life: happiness.

Paramhansa Yogananda has written about what he called the “happiness thieves”—patterns of behavior that steal our joy. Let’s look at a few of these “thieves,” and how we can enlist our “Soul Patrols” to drive them away.

Thief #1: Negative Habits. When we repeatedly express qualities like anger, self-interest, or laziness, they become hardwired in our brain. The longer these habits are allowed to go unchecked, the more entrenched they become. We can, however, call on our Soul Patrol of “Freedom from Bad Habits“ to combat them with energy and will power. By expressing their opposites—kindness, generosity, or dynamic activity—we begin to establish new neural pathways that enable us to live more joyfully.

Thief #2: Speaking Negatively About Others. Everything and everyone in this world is a mixture of good and bad qualities. That is the nature of duality. If you find that you tend regularly to talk about what’s wrong with others, realize that this is diminishing your own happiness. Call on the Soul Patrol of ”Seeing the Highest in All,” and begin to speak about what’s right about them. You’ll find a shift in your perspective, like a shaft of light illumining your mind, that will bring a sense of freedom and joy.

Thief #3: Worrying. If you’re often in a state of anxiety about what might happen in the future, call on the Soul Patrol of “Determined Peace of Mind.” Yoganandaji has written, “Happiness comes, not by helplessly wishing for it, but by thinking and living it in all circumstances. No matter what you are doing, keep the undercurrent of happiness flowing beneath the sands of your thoughts and the rocky soil of trials.”

I’ll close with a true story told to us by a dear friend in India. He and his family are direct disciples of the great woman saint, Anandamayi Ma, who often stayed with them in their home.

Once when our friend was sixteen, he contracted dysentery. His condition worsened, and eventually he had to be hospitalized. Nothing the medical staff did seemed to help; his pain and weakness increased daily. Finally the doctors told him and his family that there was nothing more they could do: He would not survive.

Anandamayi Ma of Autobiography of a Yogi Joy Permeated Mother

Photo from www.AnandamayiMa.org.

Our friend lay in bed too weak to move, overwhelmed by pain, and with tears falling down his cheeks. At that moment, Anandamayi Ma entered his hospital room.

“Son,” she said, “I can’t help you if you remain so unhappy. You need to stop crying and smile for me.”

Feebly he replied, “Ma, how can I smile now?”

“Try,” she told him.

Summoning up what little strength he had left, he forced himself to stop crying, and wanly smiled at her. Immediately she began to rub his body with her hands, and he felt energy and healing flowing into him. To everyone’s amazement, in a few days he returned to full health.

To draw divine grace that is the source of true, lasting happiness, we need to do our part. Find the strength to reach out for happiness, and God will do the rest. Then the happiness thieves will flee, never to return.

With joy,

Nayaswami Devi

P.S. The U.S. edition of our book, Touch of Joy: A Yogi’s Guide to Lasting Happiness, comes out February 20. If you preorder now, our publisher, Crystal Clarity, will send you six gifts: e-books by Yogananda, Swami, and Jyotish. If you are interested, please order now as the offer expires at midnight, February 20.

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  1. Nothing else to say!
    Thank you Devi for this inspiration,

  2. Dear Nayaswami Devi Ji,
    Thank you for this wonderful and Inspiring Article
    Great Guidance and pointers to follow

    Jai Guru


  3. Thank you. There is so much sadness in the world today it is hard to stay happy. My brother is drinking and his excuse is his wife is
    ill as she has Parkinson. My family on my fathers side was a lot of alcoholism including myself. I was able to recover only because
    my belief in God and coming on this path. He knows this but I do not know if he realizes he must find his own Higher Power I cannot
    give him mine. We pray for him. But must try to help himself. He is the only family I have left. Y

    1. We are sending prayers to your brother.

      With love,

  4. I do heartily agree that joy is sometimes a scarce blessing to come by, at times in our lives. I do experience joy in reading your letters online. Thank you for that peace of mind . I do look forward to the arrival of this new book.

    With love,
    Mary L. Narang

  5. What a powerful story…thanks for this blog and all the others!!!

  6. As always, Divine Gratitude and Joy flow from your heart to all. In Divine Friendship, namaste.

  7. Everything I read is always so inspirational and helpful. Thankyou.

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